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Jillian Gaeta ’07 (Middletown, N.J.) observed the inner workings of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign office and saw the senator deliver a major address during an externship hosted by Daniel Turrentine ’00.

A double major in international affairs and French, Gaeta spent five days in the nation’s capital shadowing Turrentine, who is national finance director of the Clinton for Senate 2006 campaign. She was among more than 275 Lafayette students who gained first-hand knowledge of the professional world during January’s interim session by serving externships with alumni and other experienced professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits and other fields.

Students from a score of states and more than a dozen foreign nations served externships with about 200 alumni, parents, and friends in 20 states and the District of Columbia, observing work practices, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, and developed professional networking contacts.

“I think an externship is invaluable for someone considering a career in politics. No one can major in the campaign side of politics. You’ve got to see it,” says Turrentine, who made an effort to allow Gaeta to have many experiences. She participated in sending out mailings, phoning donors to ascertain necessary information, and recording data in accordance with campaign finance laws.

Turrentine says he “fell in love with politics” while he was a student at Lafayette when he did a two-week externship with former Connecticut Congressman Sam Gjedson. “I thought it was exciting. I loved the people and I loved all the energy. I’m grateful for the opportunity Sam Gjedson gave me and happy to give that opportunity to Jillian.

“She got a chance to see the nuts and bolts of how fundraising works,” he continues. “Political campaigns are run on shoestring budgets, so I wear a lot of hats. I wanted her to see that there is a sexy side of the job and a non-sexy side. Sometimes you’re talking with the most powerful people in the world, sometimes you’re writing out nametags.”

Gaeta found that the campaign office was filled with dedicated workers enthusiastic about Clinton’s agenda.

“It’s amazing how many things go into campaign fundraising that I’d never thought of,” she says. “It was interesting to learn about the process of running a campaign, and to see what passion and hard work goes into it. It gave me a broader perspective of our political system.”

Attending a speech Clinton gave on health care was the highlight, she says. “It was an exciting opportunity. She is a dynamic speaker.”

“Seeing what it is like to work in Washington was a good experience for me,” continues Gaeta, who plans to attend law school. “I think I could enjoy a career in this field, but right now I’m still not sure.”

She’s grateful to Turrentine for providing her with an experience full of behind-the-scenes insights. “He has a dynamic personality. He was really helpful and a good person to learn from.”

A member of the executive board of the Alternative School Break Club, Gaeta is a member of Mock Trial team, Students for Social Justice, Amnesty International, Newman Association and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

Categorized in: Academic News